I attended the main Luis Palau Highland Festival
events in Inverness with my wife and family on the Friday night and all day Saturday (June 19th & 20th) along with 1000s of others from around the Highlands. I was delighted to see so many people respond to Christ at the festival. It was an excellent weekend with top Christian bands such as Hillsong and Delirious leading worship and it was great to hear Luis Palau share The Good News with so many people. Thanks must go to all who worked so hard for these events and who seized this opportunity to spread the Gospel in this remote and beautiful part of Scotland. [Ed note: pick up Kenny's report and reflections here.]
Afterwards I was invited by John Grant who is the Luis Palau Association (LPA) Mission Director for Eastern Europe to attend an outreach weekend with him in Romania during September of this year. I had worked with John in Caithness on one of the various smaller festivals that were taking place around the Highlands.
I’ve recently returned from this 4000 mile round trip which began with a 3.5 hour bus trip from Wick to Inverness. A lorry stuck on the Berridale Brae hairpin bend, could have caused me to miss my flight, but thankfully it eventually managed to free itself. I then had an EasyJet flight from Inverness to Luton, a Wizz Air flight from Luton to Cluj in Romania and a 2 hour drive to the Transylvanian town of Bistrita (pronounced Bristritza). Within an hour of landing in Romania, we had a close encounter with eternity when a lorry we were overtaking decided to pull out in front of us, but for the grace of God and the quick reactions of our driver we managed to avoid a serious accident. We eventually arrived at the hotel 'Mya' where we were staying and holding most of the outreach events.
Bistrita has a population of 86,000 and is located in the Transylvanian region of northern Romania. The north of Romania is more affluent and prosperous than the south.
With me during the weekend were John Grant, English evangelist Fane Conant and LPA Missions Facilitator for North West Romania, Daniel Rus. The weekend had 6 affinity meal events planned for different groups consisting of students, ladies, teachers, teenagers, doctors / nurses and finally business and civic leaders.
The planning of these events had begun 6 months ago when John Grant met with local evangelical church leaders, which in Bistrita consisted of 7 Pentecostal and 4 Baptist churches. One of the Pentecostal churches had a membership of 1200 and another had 600.
Evangelicals viewed with suspicion and seen as 'traitors'
While the majority of Romanians would call themselves Orthodox Christians, as it is the national church, few would know about a personal experience of salvation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. Evangelical Christians (such as Pentecostals and Baptists) are often viewed with some suspicion, and to leave the Orthodox Church can in some circumstances be seen as being a traitor to Romania.
The meal events all followed a similar format of Christians bringing their invited non Christian guests along to the hotel restaurant where they were made to feel very welcome. During the meal we were blessed with some great local singers and musicians. Sometimes a testimony was shared.
After the meal, evangelist Fane Conant would passionately share The Good News message and clearly explain the way of salvation. He would also mention that although it is best way to live, it can sometimes be difficult to ‘go against the flow’ in this world. After the message Fane would ask people to respond to Jesus Christ and lead them in a prayer asking for salvation.
People were encouraged to then fill in a response sheet where they could be contacted for future help. They were given details of a ‘Next Steps’ meeting where they could go with their friend that invited them to learn more about the Christian faith in a similar relaxed, friendly and non formal environment.
These meal events are not new, as from the Gospels we see that Jesus conducted much of his teaching and ministry over a meal with friends and guests. Alpha courses have proved very successful over the past 20 years and are conducted in a similar environment.
Over the weekend 600 attended the 6 meal events, over half were non Christians and 170 gave their life to Jesus Christ for the first time. A big thanks must go to the translator Oli Oniga who did an excellent job over the weekend and was even able to understand my Caithness accent (most of the time) when I gave my testimony and preached.
A great feeling of liberty
On the Sunday morning the team attended ‘Betesda Pentecostal Church’ which meet in an old factory office block. There were about 150 (mostly young people), in attendance led by visionary Pastor Stephan Buhai. There was a great feeling of liberty within the congregation and the worship was enhanced by a variety of singers and musicians who had taken part over the weekend.
John Grant took part in the service and proved to be a very able preacher himself. Daniel Rus spoke briefly about one of his ministries called ‘100% for Christ’. This ministry is aimed at encouraging young people who’ve been brought up in church to have a personal faith and their own experience of Christ. As the title says it encourages them to live 100% for Christ and not to compromise with sin.
I then shared God’s word from Matthew 9:35-38 where Christ desires that more labourers would be willing to go and work to bring in his harvest. I encouraged them to step out in faith and to clearly communicate the Gospel to today’s generation in a relevant way.
At the business and civic leader meal on Sunday afternoon, the Bistrita Mayor turned up along with a Mayor from another town and also 2 Senators. The Mayor spoke very favourably afterwards about the event. There was a high response rate from this group that gave their life to Christ which was one of the highlights of the weekend.
On the Sunday evening the team took part in the final church rally held in ‘Emanuel Pentecostal Church’. It was a large church with about 750 in attendance. The atmosphere was more formal than the morning service. Fane delivered a very challenging message on the need of local Christians to follow up and nurture those who’ve given their life to Christ over the weekend.
"We need these people to come over to the UK"
It was a great weekend and I met many wonderful Romanian Christians fully committed to Christ. At times I thought, ‘What am I doing here? We need these people to come over to the UK and evangelise our country. There’s more life in these churches than in our own'.
We heard lots of local talented singers and musicians. I was able to sing along sometimes when I recognised songs from Matt Redman, Hillsong and Delirious. One of the after dinner talks by the evangelist was filmed and will be shown on one of the Romanian television channels
The LPA have been running these affinity events in Eastern Europe for a number of years and they’ve proved to be very successful in helping people find Christ as Saviour.
I was amazed at the hard work, commitment and personal financial cost of those involved in organising this mission. One wonders if they had more support in the UK, how many more missions could be funded in Eastern Europe and how many more could be won for Christ. They already have various missions planned to Romania and Moldova for this and next year. From my personal experience I would say that the LPA is able to effectively reach people in Eastern Europe with this method of evangelism.
It was a great weekend, John, Daniel and Fane were great company and I met many wonderful Romanian Christians. It was great to see God work in so many lives. I hope to go on another trip to Eastern Europe with the Luis Palau Association in the new year.
Wick & Keiss Baptist Church